The following describes rheumatic disorders, particularly in children. For specific information regarding your child’s health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
For children and their parents, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases can be particularly difficult. These diseases can have a lasting impact on a child’s normal activities, such as playing, learning and growing. At Hurley Medical Center, our physicians, physical and rehabilitative therapists, and highly-experienced staff are committed to helping families by providing top-quality, patient-centered medical treatment. We also believe that an informed patient and his or her family are better able to make medical and lifestyle choices that can significantly improve the quality of life.
What is the difference between pediatric rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases?
The category of disease known as “arthritis” is itself made up of a group of more than 100 different diseases. However, the various types of arthritis fall within just one category of broad family of rheumatic diseases.
Rheumatic diseases in general may cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and other supporting body structures such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. Rheumatic diseases can affect other areas of the body, including internal organs. Some rheumatic diseases involve connective tissues (called connective-tissue diseases), while others may be caused by autoimmune disorders, which are diseases involving the body's immune system attacking its own healthy cells and tissues.
What is the Immune System?
The purpose of the immune system is to keep infectious microorganisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses and fungi, out of the body, and to destroy any infectious microorganisms that do invade the body. The immune system is made up of a complex and vital network of cells and organs that protect the body from infection. When the immune system does not function properly, it leaves the body susceptible to an array of diseases. Allergies and hypersensitivity to certain substances are considered immune system disorders. In addition, the immune system plays a role in the rejection process of transplanted organs or tissue. Other examples of immune disorders include the following:
- Cancer of the immune system
- Autoimmune diseases, such as juvenile diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and anemia
- Immune complex diseases, such as viral hepatitis and malaria
- Immunodeficiency diseases, such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Who is effected by Arthritis and Rheumatic Disease?
Arthritis and rheumatic diseases can affect anyone, at any age, or of any race. However, certain diseases are more common in certain populations, including the following:
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects children before the age of 15
- In children, lupus occurs more often in females
- Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in boys
What causes pediatric rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases?
The cause of most types of rheumatic diseases remains unknown and, in many cases, varies depending on the type of rheumatic disease present. However, researchers believe that some or all of the following may play a role in the development or aggravation of one or more types of rheumatic diseases:
- Genetics and family history (for example, inherited cartilage weakness)
- Neurogenic disturbances
- Metabolic disturbances
- Excessive wear and tear and stress on a joint or joints
- Environmental triggers
- The influence of certain hormones on the body
Symptoms may include:
- Joint pain
- Swelling in one or more joints
- Joint stiffness that lasts for at least one hour in the early morning
- Chronic pain or tenderness in the affected joint or joints
- Warmth and redness in the joint area
- Limited movement in the affected joint or joints
- Persistent fevers
When is a multidisciplinary team needed?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases may be treated by your child's pediatrician and/or other medical specialists and healthcare providers. Several physicians from different medical specialties may be involved in the treatment of your child at the same time. This multidisciplinary team approach is particularly important in managing symptoms of the rheumatic disease, since symptoms may be chronic and change in severity or presentation over time. Some of the medical professionals commonly involved in the treatment of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases include the following:
- Pediatrician or primary care physician: generally your child’s main healthcare provider
- Rheumatologist: a physician who specializes in the treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases; many rheumatologists have a background in internal medicine or pediatrics and have received additional training and board certification in the field of rheumatology
- Orthopedic surgeon: a physician who specializes in orthopedic surgery; orthopedists are educated in the workings of the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, muscles and connective tissue throughout the body
- Physical therapist (or PT): a medical professional who evaluates and provides treatment for persons with health problems resulting from injury, disease or overuse of muscles or tendons. Some physical therapists specialize in caring for children and all must be licensed by their state by passing a national certification examination
- Occupational therapist: a healthcare professional who uses "occupation" (purposeful activity) to help people, including children with developmental or neuromuscular problems, lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives
- Podiatrist: a medical professional who specializes in foot care and is licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery, for example, children who suffer from arthritis in the feet may see a podiatrist for special supportive shoes
- Nurses: They may assist your child's physician in providing care, help you learn about your child's treatment plan, and answer many of your questions